The Danger of Nice

We’re made for more than meek and mild.
The Danger of Nice
Image: LASSEDESIGNEN / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

I suspect you’ve seen the same bumper sticker I have, whether attributed to Anonymous, Eleanor Roosevelt, Marilyn Monroe, or Anne Boleyn: “Well-behaved women rarely make history.”

When I’m driving behind that vehicle, whether it’s a jazzy orange sports car or a black pick-up truck sporting a gun rack, I’ve never once mused to myself, That driver is probably a Christian.

Not once.

Because we—the “good Christian girls” who are raised to be “good Christian women”—have been conditioned to be well-behaved. We’ve been trained to be “nice.”

Typically, we’re polite. We avoid profanity. We usually don’t fight others with our fists. We avoid getting caught gossiping. Christian women are stereotypically, at least superficially, nice. And while being a “nice girl” might have once been desirable (possibly in the 1950s to distinguish one’s self from “bad” girls, like Rizzo from Broadway’s Grease), today it suggests someone without much spark. Someone who avoids confrontation. Who won’t ruffle feathers. Who doesn’t take risks. Who prioritizes “polite” over “right.”

With all due respect to the really “well-behaved” women out there: yuck.

I’m not proposing we ought to taunt sweet Sandra Dee or start a brawl to prove we’re not the boring variety of “nice.” But I do want to suggest that although our culture may have appropriated “nice” and applied it to well-behaved Christian women, “nice” that avoids conflict for the sake of keeping peace isn’t a Christian value.

Anointed, Not “Nice”

A more biblical way to identify ourselves, I’d argue, is that we are anointed. We’ve been equipped and charged to carry out the mission of Christ in the world today. As anointed ones, we reflect the fruit of the Spirit Paul describes, like a lot of nice people do: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. But there’s nothing about the Christian expression of these virtues that is perfunctorily polite, weak, or riskless! Jesus-style fruit—loving our enemies, pursing peace in a violent world, choosing kindness, practicing self-control—is radically countercultural. And in addition to radical fruitfulness, the anointed person is the one who embraces the mission of the kingdom Jesus ushered in.

Margot Starbuck

Margot Starbuck, award-winning writer and speaker, is a graduate of Westmont College and Princeton Theological Seminary. A TCW regular contributor and columnist, Margot speaks regularly on discipleship, justice, and living love in the world God loves. Connect with Margot on Facebook, Twitter, or at MargotStarbuck.com.

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Character; Gospel; Identity; Jesus Christ
Today's Christian Woman, December 9, 2015
Posted December 9, 2015

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